Behaviors Matter

ExploreLast week’s post shared the importance of clear values standards in business success. Values set the stage for workplace safety and inspiration.

However, setting values expectations alone doesn’t have much positive impact. What truly creates workplace trust, dignity, and respect is valued behaviors – values defined in observable, tangible, measurable terms.

Let’s look at performance management. Leaders have trouble inspiring teams to consistent performance without clear goals. Yet simply having clear goals doesn’t guarantee consistent high performance.

Effective leaders use a variety of performance-alignment behaviors – modeling, engaging, observing, monitoring, coaching, re-directing, celebrating progress, etc. – to ensure teams deliver on performance goals.

Managing desired values requires the same practices. Once values standards are clarified and defined in behavioral terms, effective leaders use a variety of values-alignment behaviors – modeling, engaging, observing, monitoring, coaching, re-directing, celebrating progress, etc. – to ensure teams deliver their goals in accordance with desired values.

In fact, once values standards and behaviors are published and communicated, scrutiny of valued behaviors increases, drastically. Leaders’ every plan, decision, and action are placed “under the magnifying glass” by other leaders and team members.

Is that scrutiny of valued behaviors fair? Certainly it is! Leaders are “changing the rules” when they add values standards to the mix. Humans don’t like change – even if they understand the rational reasoning behind the change!

Team members embrace change only 1) over time and 2) when they see their leaders and peers consistently embrace the new practices, right before their eyes, every day.

If team members can find examples of leaders’ behaving in ways that are inconsistent with the new valued behaviors, their resistance to the change grows stronger. They express their frustration with the new values “demands” because this or that happened, “which is clearly not aligned with the new values.”

Here’s an example from one of my culture clients. About six months into this client’s culture refinement efforts, the division president and three of his direct reports went to a conference. The president decided to take his wife on the trip – at his own expense – and spend a couple of days after the conference to enjoy a little down time with his spouse.

Within a week of their return, three supervisors told the president that some team members were complaining that the president took advantage of his position to have the company fund his wife’s trip . . . and that action didn’t align with the division’s new “integrity” value or behaviors.

The president was surprised at their concern but understood it. Within a week, he held a town hall meeting to address their concern, showing that he’d funded her expenses himself. He thanked people for raising the concern.

How did people learn of the president’s wife’s attendance on the trip? It was a natural result of the increased scrutiny. People talk and people make assumptions.

The message is clear. Leaders must not only define values in behavioral terms, but they must model them, communicate them, and celebrate them, daily.

Are your team’s values defined in behavioral terms? Share your comments and insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for building a safe, inspiring workplace? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This one-morning-a-month series, based on The Culture Engine, starts in March 2015 and ends in September.

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